Blue Monday, a notable date coined by psychologist Cliff Arnall, is deemed to be the most depressing day of the year and will descend upon us on the 18th of January 2021. Falling on the 3rd Monday of January every year, ‘the blues’ hit us as the post holiday euphoria fades, we return to work, our finances are not great, it’s a 5 week month thus longer until pay day, we have likely failed miserably at keeping our resolutions AND this year, we are still in the grip of a global pandemic. It is no wonder then, that grieving the loss of a much loved pet will hit harder at this time. So what can we do about it?
My best suggestion is that we work on building our resilience ahead of time. Let’s look at 5 ways to do that.
- Instead of making New Years Resolutions, make SMART Goals.
Every year we put ourselves under enormous pressure and set ourselves up to fail. STOP. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant & Timebound Goals are a much better way to do what we need to do in a less stressful way. By being a bit more realistic about working towards something in the future which is do-able, we are much more likely to be successful. Decide what you want to do and figure out how to do it using this pathway as your guide
2. Be more assertive and set boundaries.
When we are grieving for our pets, we can sometimes hide how we are feeling from others which can often result in us feeling imposed upon when people ask for more than we have the capacity to give. By setting clear boundaries we are effectively protecting ourselves and preserving our energy for what ‘we’ need rather than having our resources depleted by meeting the wants of others. You are not obliged to pick up your phone every time it rings. If you are having some ‘me time’ you can reply to a message later. Be selective about the media you consume and perhaps limit your social media usage to avoid absorbing too much negativity. It’s o.k to say ‘No’. Acknowledge how you are feeling, take a minute to process that and then take responsibility to be proactive about how to move forward. We can consciously take control of our emotional wellbeing by identifying, being honest and being assertive about our own needs without feeling guilty for it.
3. Practice Gratitude.
Having an attitude of gratitude can be hugely beneficial during the grieving process. It’s a beautiful way to memorialise our pets in our hearts and minds if we can be thankful for the time we had and the experiences we shared rather than focusing on what we have lost. If we apply a gratitude practice in daily life it can take as little as 3 weeks to form this as a habit thanks to the magic of ‘neuroplasticity’ which I often speak about in counselling sessions. If we can make gratitude and positive self talk part of our daily routine, it will become second nature. Think of all the things that bring you joy and happiness in your life. Thank the little Robin that visited your garden. Take a moment to congratulate yourself on an achievement. Simple things that we often overlook or take for granted can be the very things that can help you to rewrite a challenging day.
As a qualified meditation teacher, this is my ‘go to’ resource to quieten mind chatter and combat negative self talk. While we are grieving, we feel so many emotions, sometimes all at the one time. By practicing meditation on a regular basis we can learn to overcome that inner turmoil and regain our balance when we feel overwhelmed. Mindful Meditation is a great way to stay present and in the moment while noticing your environment, sensations and keeping things in focus. Self Compassion Meditation can be helpful when feelings of guilt arise. It is far too easy to let out thoughts run away with us so meditation can be an effective way to help us find our inner calm by ducking beneath that choppy surface.
The release of endorphins during exercise ensure that we feel good about ourselves and promotes better sleep which helps to build resilience. My preferred form of exercise is yoga due to the well documented physical, mental and emotional benefits. I also enjoy hiking as it’s a great way to take exercise, take in fresh, clean air and gives me the opportunity to practice mindfulness. I can practice gratitude at the same time by appreciating all the things that I notice during my hike. During this pandemic it is particularly important for our mental health to stay active.
I hope that you find these tips useful and can implement some of them in the lead up to Blue Monday. If you would like to talk about how you are feeling, please don’t hesitate to book an online session. Alternatively, you can download or order a copy of my book ‘How To Recover From Pet Loss – Supporting You On Your Journey To Acceptance’.